B ruce Hornsby could have spent his years getting rid of the MOR Superstar. He could have made albums that sounded a bit like The Way It Is, the lambent piano-driven song that was a worldwide hit in 1986. And by now he'd probably be co-headlining tours that are called something like Everlasting 80s, maybe next door a bunch of Mr. Mister with an original member.
"That's a bit mean," says Hornsby, laughing softly. "But I know what you mean. And that would be a jail for me.
Would he rather watch basketball all day at home in Williamsburg, Virginia than surrender to that past?
"I'd rather teach the school," he says, and he laughs again.
Obviously Hornsby did not make any more albums that sounded a bit like The Way It Is, even though it's the only song of his that everybody knows: the one sampled by Tupac and Snoop Dogg. Overlapping sounds with overrolling piano ̵
"I'm looking for the showers," says Hornsby. "That takes me a long way, from traditional traditional music, folk music, bluegrass, country, formulas, gospel music, the black tradition in church music, to the most astringent, sharp, dodecaphonic classical music of modernity, regularly adding to my poor, unsuspecting audience , much to her chagrin. "
It is very likely that you might consider the news of Hornby's new album Absolute Zero (with longtime admirer Justin Vernon of Bon Iver), at best apathy and, at worst, contempt I searched for something that was easy to play in the background, then I was struck down by one of the unexpectedly most enjoyable records of the year, experimental experimentalism associated with rich melodicism – if they were from these new Puritans Everyone would enjoy it.
"There are some minimalist composers who have influenced me on this record – Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams – and that's more of a less chromatic, dissonant music area," says Hornsby. "But the influences I have had for many years are the great American avant-garde composer Elliott Carter, Schoenberg, Webern, Olivier Messiaen and Ligeti. Ligeti and Carter emerge on this record. "Before you get to the texts that were coined, among other things by the reading of David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo. But how did he get here? How come that guy with the awful ponytail and the MOR hit set up as unconventional as Absolute Zero?
The Way It Is happened to be a hit; No one at RCA wanted it to be released as a single, but a Radio 1 producer named Mik Wlikojc recorded it. Hornsby had been a musician for years – trained at conservatories (at Berklee) and in numerous bands, so he already had a great deal of respect. "On the one hand, I'm a trained musician, so I studied the course intensively and became an amazing musical variety in college. At the same time I played in a rock band. I played brotherhood parties, with animal-like fences, to stop flying with beer bottles. I played at Country Club parties and Bar Mitzvah, played KC and the Sunshine Band. I played in cover bands that Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers and the band played at grain alcohol parties to dance hippies.
He thought he was prepared for the pop star. "And then I realized: I'm pretty bad at it. And so I thought, maybe I was not so prepared, even though I was older. Damn, I was 31 when it happened, so I got under the leash. In short, I was pretty bad at being a pop star. I was on a radio fanfest, at a table with a bunch of CDs or LPs, with a pen in my hand to sign records. All around me were New Kids on the Block and Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, and there's my 31-year-old ass and I'm leaving: what's up with this picture? It's me! "I would find myself in places where I would think," Hmmm, I wish I had an eject button now that I could press now.
There was also an advantage. Initially he was the songwriter and producer of Bruce Hornsby's three albums and the Range when CDs cost a fortune. So he earned the money, with which he has since been able to follow his own idiosyncratic way. "And I was asked if I would play on so many great artist albums – Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Bonnie Raitt and so on. I was allowed to get into their worlds and see and learn about their process, especially Robbie Robertson. Most of all, I was asked to play with the grateful dead. I did that for a few years, and the relationship lasted until 2015 when I played the farewell concerts.
Hornsby says that people wrongly assume that the dead have freed him to improvisation; He points out that he completed a training as a jazz pianist and he improvised for years. Perhaps what they did, however, freed him from the expectation that he should stay on the musical path. Sure, it's been in the years since he played with the dead that Hornsby went where he wants, whenever he wants. And he now has several different viewers coming to visit him. "There are people who come to visit me to hope for a nostalgic night, a walk through the memory trail, and they are usually disappointed," he says. "Then we have a group of people who are adventurous listeners, and they are interested in seeing our spontaneous movements as we take, move and change the songs. So that's the audience we really want. "And since the approval of Justin Vernon, who also appeared on his latest record, Rehab Reunion," we're increasingly having a younger audience looking for the ever-searching grandpa. " Again he laughs at the absurdity of the whole. "Although I'm not a grandfather yet."
There is a place in the middle where Hornsby wants to be but not in the middle of the street. "It's really easy to be very straight and paint for numbers, copy the latest fashions and fashions, and do something very direct," he says. "It's not hard to be very dull and dark in your music and do something completely inscrutable. For me, the really difficult area in which I can work is the middle ground in which you try to do something that has some depth and some gravitas that also connect. I live there. There have been great examples over the years – Peter Gabriel has. There are several indie rock and alternative groups that have had this success – Arcade Fire, Bon Iver. I think that's the hardest trick. So it's in the middle for me. "
It is admittedly a very special version of the middle. It is nothing bland or indisputable. However, if you only hear a record of an 80-year-old MOR star this year, who is now dealing with the area of "modern classical music" that most people really hate, then Absolute Zero should be Zero is now Zappo Productions appeared.